Fire (Bruce Springsteen song)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Fire" is a song written by Bruce Springsteen in 1977 which had its highest profile as a 1978 single release by the Pointer Sisters. The song was also released by Robert Gordon and Springsteen himself.

Robert Gordon version[edit]

The first released recording of "Fire" was by neo-rockabilly singer Robert Gordon who had met Springsteen through E Street Band bass player Garry Tallent. They remained on friendly terms before Springsteen gave Gordon the song "Fire" after seeing a live gig by Gordon and Link Wray. According to Gordon, "it was a choice between 'Fire' and another new song but [Springsteen] decided to keep the other one for himself."[1] Springsteen played piano on Gordon's recording of "Fire" which was released on Gordon's 1978 album Fresh Fish Special, recorded in December 1977 at Plaza Sound Studios in Manhattan with veteran rock 'n' roll producer Richard Gottehrer co-producing with Gordon.

Gordon's version received airplay on album-oriented rock radio stations and his version of "Fire" spent 14 weeks in the Record World 101–150 Singles chart rising as high as no. 106 in September 1978.[2]

The Pointer Sisters version[edit]

US single picture sleeve
Single by The Pointer Sisters
from the album Energy
B-side"Love Is Like a Rolling Stone"
  • October 2, 1978 (1978-10-02) (US)
  • March 9, 1979 (UK)
  • 3:41 (album version)
  • 3:28 (single version)
Songwriter(s)Bruce Springsteen
Producer(s)Richard Perry
The Pointer Sisters US singles chronology
"I Need a Man"
The Pointer Sisters UK singles chronology
"Everybody Is a Star"


The first single by the Pointer Sisters as the trio of Anita, June and Ruth Pointer, "Fire" was recorded for the group's November 1978 album release Energy with Anita Pointer on lead. Record producer Richard Perry had introduced the song to the Pointers by playing them a tape of Springsteen singing it,[4] causing Anita Pointer to say: "It's too low for me: I guess you want Ruthie to sing it" to which Perry replied: "No – I want you to sing it."[5] Knight Ridder music critic Christine Arnold cited "Fire" as "Energy's [main] highlight......Springsteen has created a song that might well have been done by the Ronettes in the '60s, and the Pointers inherit and develop the legacy nicely. Lyrically it's a simple song, but one that captures the indecision of a woman who wants and does not want a man all at the same time. And when the Pointers sing [the lyric] fire it's enough to sear your turntable."[6]

Rising to No. 2 on the Hot 100 in Billboard magazine in February 1979 (behind Rod Stewart's "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?"), "Fire" was eventually tied with "Slow Hand" (1981) as the Pointer Sisters' highest-charting single. A hit on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Adult Contemporary charts at respectively No. 14 and No. 22, "Fire" also afforded the Pointer Sisters an international chart hit, reaching No. 1 in Belgium, the Netherlands, South Africa and New Zealand, and charting in Australia (No. 7), Austria (No. 10), Canada (No. 3), Germany (No. 35) and the UK (No. 34).

Anita Pointer recalled, "['Fire'] became [the Pointer Sisters'] first gold single: we had had gold albums before but I didn't realize what a difference a gold single made 'cause...that one song [is played] over and over all over the world. ['Fire'] really became a major hit for us and made a total difference in our career."[5]

Billboard named the song No. 48 on their list of 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time.[7]



Bruce Springsteen versions[edit]

Single by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
from the album Live/1975–85
B-side"Incident on 57th Street" (live)
ReleasedJanuary 1, 1987
RecordedDecember 16, 1978
VenueWinterland, San Francisco, California
Songwriter(s)Bruce Springsteen
  • Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band singles chronology
"Brilliant Disguise"

Bruce Springsteen envisioned "Fire" as a song which could be recorded by his idol Elvis Presley. It was written after Springsteen saw Presley perform at a May 28, 1977 concert at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. Springsteen said, "I sent [Elvis] a demo of it but he died before it arrived."[25]

Springsteen completed a studio recording of "Fire" on June 17, 1977,[26] which was one of 52 tracks at least partially recorded which did not make the cut for his 1978 album Darkness on the Edge of Town as they were considered inconsistent with his thematic vision for the album. Springsteen's manager Jon Landau speculated Springsteen had a special concern that, if included on Darkness on the Edge of Town, "Fire" would be Columbia Records' single of choice despite not being representative of the album as a whole.[27]

Despite his disinterest in releasing his own version of "Fire" Springsteen was reportedly upset when the Pointer Sisters version of the song reached no. 2 in February 1979. At that point Springsteen's most successful single remained "Born to Run" which had reached no. 23 in 1975. The Pointer Sisters were actually the second act to score a smash hit with a Springsteen cover, with Manfred Mann's Earth Band having taken "Blinded by the Light" to no. 1 in 1977. Additionally, "Because the Night" had been a no. 13 hit for Patti Smith in 1978, having begun as an unfinished Springsteen song he originally meant to record himself. Springsteen finally scored his own inaugural top 10 hit in 1980 with "Hungry Heart" which was his first single release subsequent to the Pointer Sisters' success with "Fire" (Springsteen had in fact written "Hungry Heart" for the Ramones but was persuaded by his manager/producer Jon Landau that the song was the ideal vehicle to break Springsteen as a major singles artist).[28][29]

Its omission from the Darkness on the Edge of Town album notwithstanding, "Fire" was included in the set list of the Darkness Tour and has been a Springsteen concert staple since then. On the 1986 Springsteen concert album Live/1975-85 "Fire" is represented by a December 16, 1978 performance at Winterland in San Francisco. Issued as a single, this version of "Fire" reached no. 46 on the Billboard Hot 100 and also charted in Ireland (no. 18), Canada (no. 42),[30] the UK (no. 54), and Australia (no. 82). The music video to promote the single was an acoustic performance of the song by Springsteen at a Bridge School Benefit concert in 1986.

The studio version of "Fire" was first released on The Promise box set (but the lead vocal was re-recorded in 2010, and overdubbed, replacing the original)[31] and a video version appeared on the associated The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story as part of the Thrill Hill Vault Houston '78 Bootleg: House Cut DVD.

Other versions[edit]

Shakin' Stevens had a January 1979 UK single release with "Fire" serving as B-Side to his remake of "Endless Sleep". In the Netherlands, the single was issued with "Fire" as the A-side and formatted with a picture sleeve, this Dutch pressing being valued at £200+ in 1987.[32]

Robin Williams imitated Elmer Fudd singing “Fire” for his 1983 comedy album Throbbing Python of Love. For this abbreviated version of the song (officially titled “Elmer Fudd sings Bruce Springsteen”), Williams imitated Springsteen’s vocal stylings, even though Springsteen’s first recorded performance of “Fire” was not released until 1986. Williams said he had seen Springsteen perform the song live in concert in 1978.[33]

Link Wray, rockabilly guitarist who played on the Robert Gordon version, released his own version on his 1997 live album Walkin' Down A Street Called Love. In 2001, contemporary jazz guitarist Chuck Loeb covered the song on his release In a Heartbeat.[34][35]


  1. ^ Lakeland Ledger, June 12, 1978, p. 15.
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2015). The Comparison Book. Menonomee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 213. ISBN 978-0-89820-213-7.
  3. ^ Molanphy, Chris (June 16, 2023). "Yes We Can Edition". Hit Parade | Music History and Music Trivia (Podcast). Slate. Retrieved July 1, 2023.
  4. ^ Sioux Falls Argus-Leader 26 April 1979 "Pointers Pleased With New Direction" by Marshall Fine p.2C
  5. ^ a b Sisters, Pointer (February 18, 2014). "Bullseye with Jesse Thorn". Bullseye (Interview). Interviewed by Jesse Thorn. NPR.
  6. ^ The Evening Independent (St. Petersburg) 20 January 1979, p.11-D
  7. ^ "100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time: Critics' Picks". Billboard. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  8. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 235. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  9. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". 1978-04-07. Retrieved 2019-07-26.
  10. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 10, 1979" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 2017-12-31.
  11. ^ "Pointer Sisters – Fire" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 2017-12-31.
  12. ^ "Pointer Sisters – full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 22 April 2023.
  13. ^ "The Pointer Sisters". Billboard. Retrieved 22 April 2023.
  14. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 465.
  15. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 194.
  16. ^ "USA Cashbox Charts Summaries". popmusichistory. Retrieved December 16, 2022.
  17. ^ "Record World Singles Chart, February 17, 1979" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 15, 2022. Retrieved December 18, 2022.
  18. ^ "Kent Music Report No 288 – 31 December 1979 > National Top 100 Singles for 1979". Kent Music Report. Retrieved January 10, 2023 – via
  19. ^ "Image : RPM Weekly - Library and Archives Canada". 2013-07-17. Archived from the original on 2016-10-06. Retrieved 2016-10-13.
  20. ^ "Ultrtrop jaaroverzichten 1979 | VRT Top 30". Retrieved 2018-04-24.
  21. ^ "Top 100-Jaaroverzicht van 1979 | Nederlandse Top 40)". Retrieved 2018-04-24.
  22. ^ "Top Selling Singles of 1979 | The Official New Zealand Music Chart". 1979-12-31. Retrieved 2016-10-13.
  23. ^ "Top 20 Hit Singles of 1979 | South Africa's Rock Lists Website". Retrieved 2018-04-24.
  24. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1979/Top 100 Songs of 1979". Retrieved 2016-10-13.
  25. ^ Clinton Heylin. E-Street Shuffle: The Glory Days of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band. Viking Penguin (NYC), 1st US ed., 2013, unpaged.
  26. ^ Heylin, Clinton (2012). Song By Song. London: Penguin. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  27. ^ Carlin, Peter Ames, Bruce, 2013
  28. ^ Marc Dolan. Bruce Springsteen and the promise of rock 'n' roll. W. W. Norton & Co (NYC), 1st ed 2012. ISBN 978-0-393-08135-0 p.167.
  29. ^ Beviglia, Jim (2014). Counting Down Bruce Springsteen: his 100 finest songs. Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefied. p. 144. ISBN 978-1442230651.
  30. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles - March 21, 1987" (PDF).
  31. ^ "The Promise - Modern Elements". Brucebase. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  32. ^ Marsh, Dave. Glory Days: Bruce Springsteen in the 1980s. Pantheon Books, 1987. ISBN 0-394-54668-7.
  33. ^ "Robin Williams and Bruce Springsteen, joined by 'Fire'". USA Today.
  34. ^ "In a Heartbeat overview". Allmusic.
  35. ^ "In a Heartbeat Chuck Loeb". JazzTimes.